Za’tar in this context is a popular Middle Eastern blend of dried herbs but it is also a herb in it’s own right-grown along the slopes of the Syrian-Lebanese mountains-with long green leaves and a thyme-like flavour.
This fragrant herb blend is often eaten with bread drizzled with olive oil for breakfast and is gorgeous with honey on lamb, sprinkled on a watermelon and feta salad, on chicken and seafood and in my instance, sprinkled on hummus.
Butternut hummus to be precise, as butternut and sumac go together like peanut butter and syrup. The sumac adds a lemony sour tang-very important in Middle Eastern cuisine just like the addition of pomegranate molasses or tamarind.
While butternut hummus packs a fragrant punch along with lavender flatbread as a starter, I served the hummus with slow roasted lamb on my Christmas course and it was so popular we ended up doubling the quantity-I think that the combination resonated with South Africans as we always pair a roast with soft butternut or pumpkin.
The sour sweetness of pomegranate molasses with fall-apart lamb, sweet butternut hummus with fragrant za’atar and dried rose petals and a very lemony Persian pesto have obliterated any old “Sunday roast” traditions. There is no equal to the exotic and piquant flavours of the Middle East.